Carole King: Live At Montreux 1973

Carole King
Live at Montreux 1973 CD/DVD
(Eagle Vision)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This hour-long concert from the titular venue and year ends the way it starts: with King alone at the piano, playing and singing solo. It’s the definitive intimate performance from an artist that doesn’t need other musicians to have her music connect. But, at least for this date, she has plenty of them.

King begins the show with six unaccompanied tunes (understated brass is added to a glorious and subtle “Up On The Roof”), five from 1971’s now legendary Tapestry. She then brings on an 11-piece backing band (six horns!) with top-notch musicians like drummer Harvey Mason, reed veteran Tom Scott and guitarist David T. Walker. Together they run through most of her then-recent release Fantasy. It’s a spirited, professionally arranged half hour that broadens King’s musical palette to include the Latin influenced “Corazon” and the soulful, funky “Haywood.” Since the songs run together on the studio version of that album, she plays them that way live.

Unfortunately, Fantasy was not her finest recorded work, and even though the songs are energetic enough, the melodies and lyrics, especially to the cloying anti-war screed “Believe In Humanity,” are far from prime King. The closing unaccompanied “You’ve Got A Friend” and a lovely “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” end the show on high notes.

The CD/DVD has better than expected sound (the DVD audio is mixed into 5.1 surround), but the camera work, which captures King’s face so close up that you can count her freckles, is disconcerting at best and even hard to watch at times. Visually, it’s very much a part of its time, when long-form concerts on video were an anomaly and direction was lackadaisical. King also frustratingly doesn’t include any material from two post-Tapestry collections (Music and Rhymes & Reasons), which would have helped vary the somewhat bland Fantasy material. And at an hour, it’s a short show. Still, this is a historical document of King in her prime, and there isn’t much, if any, footage from that period around. Even with its shortcomings, Live at Montreux 1973 is a worthwhile and charming document of one of America’s finest tunesmiths in peak form. It’s an unexpected delight for King fans who likely never thought they would get to experience a full performance from this era with visuals.